A new bill was introduced to the California state legislature on Monday that seeks to require police officers to hold a bachelor’s degree or be at least 25-years-old before they are allowed on the job.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who hopes that this measure could reduce the amount of unnecessary violent encounters that police have with the public.
“This data-driven bill relies on years of study and new understandings of brain development to ensure that only those officers capable of high-level decision-making and judgment in tense situations are entrusted with working in our communities and correctional facilities,” Jones-Sawyer said in a statement Monday, according to Vice.
The bill cites a 2007 study that found officers with bachelor’s degrees were less likely to use physical force than those who only have high school diplomas.
In many other countries, a college degree is a standard requirement for police departments, but in the US, these types of requirements are extremely rare. Only a few states, Illinois, New Jersey, and North Dakota, require their state officers to complete at least two years of college .
While recognizing that there are far deeper systemic problems at play, most activists will agree that younger police officers tend to have more of a problem with violence.
The move was supported by the Los Angeles-based nonprofit the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
Esteban Nunez, the group’s director, said that young officers have underdeveloped brains.
“The evidence is clear—the prefrontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed until age 25. It is with similar logic that youth must be treated as youth by our criminal justice system,” Nunez said.
According to a study published in 2017 by Dr. Christina Gardiner, a professor of criminal justice at the University of California, Fullerton, police officers who are college-educated are more likely to embrace new methods of policing and will be less resistant to department changes that are advocated by members of the community.
Police in the United States have previously been criticized for intentionally selecting low-IQ applicants, likely because they follow orders more obediently without asking any questions. In 2000, a federal court ruled that police departments are allowed to reject applicants for being too smart, according to ABC News.
The ruling was made when Robert Jordan attempted to sue New London police after his application to become a police officer was rejected because of his higher than average IQ score. The police department later admitted that they rejected applicants who had IQ scores that were “too high” under the assumption that they would get “bored” with police work and leave the force soon after joining, which would cause the department to waste money on costly training.
Requiring police to have more education certainly couldn’t hurt, but the problems in the criminal justice system go far beyond the personal attitudes of individual police. The divide between the police and the general public will continue to grow until there are systemic changes to the legal structure and law enforcement protocols.
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